Article by Daniel Grigore – Published Friday, June 24, 2022 12:30 / Updated Friday, June 24, 2022 12:40
At the age of 32, after 5 seasons at the wheel of the Mercedes car, Valtteri Bottas drives for Alfa Romeo. The Finn reveals that the first two years in which he was the teammate of the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton put him down mentally. So much so that he was on the verge of retiring from Formula 1.
In 2017, after spending his first 4 years in Formula 1 at Williams, Valtteri Bottas took the step to Mercedes, the most popular team at the time, to be a colleague of Lewis Hamilton.
Coming after an excellent season, with 85 points collected in 2016 as a Williams driver, Bottas hopes to be able to fight for the world title in the Mercedes car.
Overcome by Lewis Hamilton, Bottas flirted with the idea of retiring from Formula 1
But things did not go the way he wanted. In 2017 he was third in the general classification of drivers, with 305 points, 12 under Sebastian Vettel and 58 under teammate and champion Lewis Hamilton.
The following year, Bottas’ results were weaker. If Lewis Hamilton won another title, with an even bigger lead than the 2nd place (88 points), Bottas was only fifth, with 247 points, 161 below Hamilton.
It was an extremely difficult year for Valtteri, who – he reveals 4 years later – no longer felt the pleasure of competing in Formula 1. The pressure on his shoulders had been so great that at the end of the season he was convinced that he would suddenly end his career in F1. At only 29 years old.
Valtteri Bottas: “I couldn’t accept that I didn’t beat Lewis Hamilton”
“Competing with Lewis was a challenge, but I was ready for it. When I went to Mercedes, I just thought I wanted to be a world champion. I think I was tough on myself at the end of the year, I thought, ‘Oh, it didn’t happen. I will try even more next year ».
It wasn’t easy for me to accept that it’s not easy to beat Lewis. Now, looking back, I realize that I have learned a lot, including not being so hard on myself.
Lewis was part of that team for a long time. He is the dominant driver, so it is difficult to move to the next level in the team. I could never do it the way I wanted.
At the end of 2018, I almost stopped. I was SO close. Just because I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t accept that I couldn’t beat Lewis in those two years.. I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders.
Towards the end of 2018, especially when I started to become a support pilot for Lewis, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I really struggled. It wasn’t fun at all, the last 4-5 races were painful. Normally you should enjoy Formula 1, it’s very cool, but it doesn’t happen, “Bottas said in the podcast” My big break “hosted by the magazine.
The walk through the forest that changed his perspective
What made him change his mind?
“I had a good break between seasons, during which I had to think about things. I went on a vacation somewhere in South America, I tried not to think about F1 at all, just to find the joy and desire to compete. And I found it, there was a kind of click.
It happened somewhere in mid-January (no – in 2019). I managed to gather and I found the pleasure of flying.
The human mind is kind of weird. Sometimes you go into dark places, you lose the pleasure of doing certain things. I had lost the pleasure of competing in Formula 1. I was kind of nervous about Formula 1.
It’s weird, I needed some free time, to look at things as a whole, and I realized that it’s a pretty cool sport, that I still have great opportunities ahead.
I was walking through a Finnish forest, through the snow. Sometimes I like to disappear. I was sitting there, looking around and feeling adrenaline. I said, “Damn it, let’s do this!” Then I won the first race of the season.
The results were much better, I think 2019 was perhaps my best season. At one point I was really leading the standings, but I couldn’t match Lewis’ consistency and evolution throughout the year, “Bottas recalled.
Valtteri Bottas, right, with Lewis Hamilton // photo: Guliver / gettyimages
In 2019, Bottas was second in the overall standings, with 326 points, 87 behind champion Lewis Hamilton. It was an excellent season, with 4 wins, 15 podiums and 5 pole positions.
The advice offered by Bottas after this experience? “I want to tell people to always look at the big picture. If you are worried, take a step back. You can always get more if you don’t give up. “
How he made the move from Williams to Mercedes
In 2016, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes, won the world title. His only title. Just 5 days after that, he announced his retirement from Formula 1.
The place vacated by the German was occupied by Bottas, who suggests that he had to pay the termination clause with Williams:
“My first thought was: I want that place. I’m sure many others have thought about it. I felt it was a possibility, but I had a contract with Williams for next year as well. It was not easy to conclude it, it was not easy to go and tell them that I want to break the contract and change the team.
It took a little encouragement from me. Maybe I put my hand in my pocket (no – laughs). But I managed to convince them to let me go if Mercedes chose me. I knew it would be a great opportunity for me. “
Bottas broke up with Mercedes at the end of 2021, when he signed with Alfa Romeo. In the car of the Swiss team he has a colossal season, with 46 points collected in only 9 races. An extraordinary total, given that Alfa Romeo collected only 13 points in the ENTIRE year 2021.
His humble attitude, the humor he shows both in the paddock and on social media, as well as the impeccable relationships developed with his colleagues they turned him into one of the most beloved Formula 1 drivers.
“If he didn’t compete against Lewis, he would look a lot better.”
In February 2022, Vlad Petrescu, a Romanian engineer at the Mercedes factory that deals with engine production, said in an interview with Gazeta Sportulor that “Bottas can look a lot better on another team, where he wouldn’t compete directly against Lewis.”
A solid assumption, given Bottas’ results earlier this year, in a lower car than Mercedes.
Bottas is an extraordinary driver when the pressure is not very high. At first he had a lot of energy, he was eager to take 1st place, but it would have been difficult for anyone to compete with a driver of Lewis’ caliber, with an incredible consistency, almost without error.
For the first two years he really wanted to beat Lewis, then he realized it was almost impossible. In the following years, he accepted the role of support for the team, which was ideal for us.
Lewis and Bottas are not best friends, teammates will never be best friends. If he were on another team, not to compete directly against Lewis, I’m sure he can look a lot better. There is a great deal of skill behind that headset.
– Vlad Petrescu, Mercedes engineer